Is Peter Sagan The Hero Cycling So Badly Needs?

In his latest goofy video, Peter Sagan channels his inner Stalone and it’s perfect.

“My life has always been like a movie,” Sagan starts. Then he chops some wood, pulls some logs, climbs some cliffs and gives us a little hint at things to come. Saganitacus Brutus. I’ll take it.

Sagan’s antics both on and off the bike have quickly made him cycling’s modern hero, he’s not only capable of winning big races and making big sacrifices to get a teammate the win, but he’s also an all-star at engaging with the public at large. Off the bike, the first thing you notice is the guys hair. Sagan’s hair is simply magnificent. Long chestnut hair with blondish streaks gently brushing the shoulders of Sagan’s rainbow-striped world champion jersey is an image that no other cyclist can offer. It’s hair you’d normally see on a trashy romance novel cover at the supermarket.

At 26 years old, Sagan is a dazzling talent who has already won many races.  But wins along do not explain the guys popularity. He wins aggressively with exciting flourishes that remind cycling fans of a romanticized past. He’s also pretty eccentric, not fearful of pulling a wheelie across the finish line or not shaving his legs at the start of the season. He also has some interesting American-influence buying habits. Case in point, he recently took delivery on a delicious 1970 Dodge Charger, a ’70 Charger with a “Dukes of Hazzard” theme sone playing foghorn none-the-less.

Oh, and lest I forget there’s also the fact that Sagan and his wife, Katarina, made a great shot-for-shot remake of the last scene of “Grease.”

We’re now approaching halfway through the 2016 Tour de France and Sagan has been his usual, entertaining self. Sagan is not a contender for the yellow jersey, that’s left to the likes of Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana. Regardless, that didn’t keep him from spending a day in it. Sagan is, however, a favorite to win the green sprinter’s jersey, which means throughout the race he’ll be one of the most watched riders in the field.

Got a crazy bike guy at work, maybe you are that guy, chances are Sagan is his favorite rider. Hell, when I grow up I want to be like Peter Sagan.

Most big name cyclist of recent years would be best described  with words and phrases like; cold, twitchy, jumpy, stuck up, prick. Lance Armstrong was a classic prick; rude to fans, calculating to the point of exhausting everyone around him, and just overall a bad, bad man. Contador, more recently, isn’t any better. But Sagan, he seems so approachable, down to earth and he seems to actually be having fun.

Fun is something those of us who love cycling have always looked for in a big name pro. I watch cycling because I love cycling. Watching pros like Armstrong is more like watching an accountant than it like watching someone who truly loves riding a bike.

Sagan is in the best stretch of his career. Last July, he won the Tour de France’s green jersey for the fourth time. Then he won  Worlds. This spring, he won both  Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.

Everyone knows about the doping which has caused scandal after scandal in cycling. It’s pulled fans and passion from the sport. At the same time, cycling has become very clinical with power meters, feet climber per minute and other data points telling riders exactly how far and fast they can ride. It’s great for teams, but it has taken a lot of the impulsivity of riding out of the game for viewers. We like attacks, even if they fail.

Sagan has that impulsivity, and sometimes it throws everybody else out of their calculated routine so well that it pays off. Take the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia last year as an example. Sagan hid in the peloton for the entire race until the final lap when he exploded out of the pack in what can only be described as a dream move. He punched up the climb and then escaped for good on the descent and hung in there for one of the best solo victories I’ve seen in recent years. Anyone that’s spent time on Zwift knows that climb well, it sucks, Sagan crushed it.

Plain and simple, Sagan has panache. Everyone who’s ever raced a bike wants to win like Sagan won at Richmond. Lay it all on the line, and beat the pack by mere meters. Beautiful.

Sagan’s earlier years were a bit less than stable, he was rightly criticized in 2013 when he  pinched a female presenter at a podium ceremony. Today, 3 years later, he’s still fun but more appropriately so. Sagan’s early years also help explain why he’s so fun to watch. He came into the cycling world on a mountain bike which lent him some of the most otherworldly bike-handing skills you’ll ever see from a pro road cyclist.  At this year’s Paris-Roubaix race, Sagan made me nearly spit up my beer  when he bunny-hopped off the French cobblestones and over rival Fabian Cancellara’s bike  after Cancellara crashed.

At the end of the 2016 season, Sagan will be a free agent as Oleg Tinkov plans to leave the sport.  On Thursday, Velonews and the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reported Sagan would ride next year for Bora Hansgrohe, a German team. He also plans to represent his home country of Slovakia in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but on a mountain bike, not the road.

He will be a rock star whatever he does and wherever he goes and for us me he’s revitalized the sport of cycling. Sagan is a guy I feel good about cheering on, for that I’m grateful.

Say something witty